If the tech pundits are to be believed, this year would be the year of wearable devices. With the advent of Google Glass, there has been much hype and excitement around gadgets which could be worn like any other accessory, with the additional benefits of being able to read texts, capture moments or record videos minus the cumbersome task of reaching into your pocket and pulling out that huge new smartphone. Despite all their promises, wearable devices have not yet kicked off with mainstream users and are limited mostly to early adopters. We saw this with Samsung’s failed attempt at a Smartwatch – the Galaxy Gear. As a matter of fact, most wearable devices focus on health benefits and can be used to replace your pedometer or heart rate monitors.
However, no tech pundit would ever extoll on the real reason why wearable tech isn’t picking up with the masses quickly. The secret to achieving success with wearable devices rests very much on the design of the gadget. A wearable device, whose design complements its usability, would be a hit with the masses. One reason we do not see so much emphasis on good design with smartphones (Samsung’s cheap plastic devices, which resemble each other, have been selling like hotcakes for a very long time now) is what we can call the ‘intimacy factor’. Sure there are fashionistas amongst us who try to match colors on the smartphones’ case to their shoes, but a vast majority of users do not consider a smartphone as an accessory. For the majority of users, a smartphone is supposed to be taken out of the pocket or the purse, to be used and then to be put back in. A wearable device on the other hand is always on show, it is an accessory to express oneself. Obviously as with all accessories, design features top-most in the mind of someone purchasing an accessory. A clear cut example in this regards would be the Motorola 360 running on Android Wear. A few short days back Google created a stir with the launch of their innovative and award-winning product Google Now for wearables – now called Android Wear.
Moments later Motorola walked in with their smart timepiece – the Motorola 360, a device which immediately garnered interest, partially due to its lineage but partly due to its design. The Motorola 360 is the first Smartwatch which deviates away from the chunky rectangular faces of the Samsung Galaxy Gear, Qualcomm Toq and the Pebble Smartwatch – the Motorola 360 is circular and represents a classic wristwatch in design. The first thought that comes to mind is that “this is a ‘watch’ and I can read texts on it” and not “this is such a small screen to read that text on, and yeah it tells the time too.”
But the next question that needs to be asked is whether it is all about design or are there other barriers which hinder the growth of wearable tech? In my humble opinion, though design has a prominent role, another barrier to wearables would be acceptance by the end user. For geeks (like me), owning the latest and hottest thing in tech would incentive enough to put that Google Glass on my face, however nerds, geeks or ‘tech enthusiasts’ aren’t the major buying numbers. For a tech product to attain wide-spread acceptance, it should meet a need with society and thus eventually click with the masses. How many people do you know who would be willing to go about their daily activities with a computer mounted on their face? In essentiality, smart glasses like Google Glass are a shrunken down computer on your face.
And at times, it is not about your own self, with devices like Google Glass which are capable of recording videos and capturing images through the use of eye gestures, privacy becomes a major concern. Any device which can jeopardize somebody’s privacy so brazenly would definitely be shunned by society. As a matter of fact Google Glass has been banned by several establishments for this very reason. Use Google Glass in a conservative neighborhood in any conservative society and you may end getting beat up as well.
However, all these challenges aside, a revolution in wearable tech is definitely around the corner. Big names have committed themselves to this niche area – we have Google, Samsung, Qualcomm and others – continuing their R&D into making wearable devices not only more user friendly but are also positioning these devices as personal fashion statements. A true revolution would come in once these devices prove beyond an iota of doubt that they are capable of things which we cannot achieve in any other way – much like the way smartphones had to prove before they become so entrenched into our daily lives. All we can do is wait and watch.